A Review of
Holy Nomad: The Rugged Road to Joy
Paperback: Abingdon Press, 2012
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Reviewed by Kevin Book-Satterlee.
Matt Litton writes the perfect pocket “unseminary” text in his book Holy Nomad: The Rugged Road to Joy. I say unseminary because in no way would his cheeky and gritty writing style apply to seminary coursework. Nor do his discussions stand for the lofty ivory tower reflections of the Christian life. He is indeed gritty, writing a reflective confessional style book that sums up what probably most seminarians truly wrestle with or will. In one little book he can challenge the call to following the Holy Nomad – Jesus – and the way of life that truly looks for a nomadic spirit in living the Christian life.
Litton hits hard on the restlessness of the current generation. Nomad is a popular term and movement is crucial for understanding process. Often the idea of nomad is misconstrued as vagabond or wayward, but the nomadic life moves with a purpose. This is the very thing Litton works hard to convey. He envisions a person grounded in a way of life, a life of pursuit, but not stuck. This is a defining difference between Litton’s nomadic life and the inevitability of growing up post-college, accumulation, career advancement, and just the way life tends to dictate us. The world would call it “nomadicy,” a combination of nomad and lunacy. Litton calls it the Christian life.
Holy Nomad is a practice of resistance, yet a practice of submission. Reading Litton’s book I don’t see a call for rebellion. Rather I see a confidence in a faithful God, an inspiring Son, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, that all bid submission, even when living contrarily to the pressures of modern, typically middle class life. This is an especially important book for suburban Christians, and those who feel like they are vagabonds yet want to live as purposeful nomads.
Litton doesn’t say a lot of new things, at least not to the couple of generations who have had books written about the same issues. He’s not even new in bringing the confessional style to a reflective Christian reader. The way Litton’s Holy Nomad is presented can actually become a little trite in relation to other similar texts (think Blue Like Jazz). What might make it all the more so, is that despite Litton’s obvious skill in writing, his constant referral to Jesus as the Holy Nomad throughout the book becomes a little too indulgent in his own writing. Litton tries a bit too hard with the wit, making the book difficult to read, not because of his concepts, but because of the presentation. Still, a newer generation who were too young to jump on the Donald Miller train would do well to learn from Litton’s Holy Nomad.
Litton speaks to an emerging generation of bored Christians – those once inspired by the Gospel they encountered, those once transformed into a secure freedom to truly follow Christ, those who have just gotten hit by the realities of a life not plugged into the nomadic security that Christianity truly offers. Matt Litton should be commended because he provides a sledgehammer for his readers to take to the glass walls of waywardness and boredom. He takes the truly important seminarian and pastoral worries and provides a bit of spark to moving purposefully rather than waywardly.
Kevin Book-Satterlee is the academic coordinator for Avance (formerly known as Spearhead), www.spearhead.org, an immersive missions training and exploration program based in Mexico City. He obtained his MA in Ministerial Leadership from George Fox University.
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C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com